Prust quickly dropped to the ice and Staal found himself with a match penalty and game misconduct. Under Rule 21, Staal is suspended indefinitely for the match penalty, and the NHL will need to decide if Staal deserves supplementary discipline.
Rule 21 – Match Penalties
21.1 Match Penalty – A match penalty involves the suspension of a player for the balance of the game and the offender shall be ordered to the dressing room immediately.
A match penalty shall be imposed on any player who deliberately attempts to injure or who deliberately injures an opponent in any manner.
… In addition to the match penalty, the player shall be automatically suspended from further competition until the Commissioner has ruled on the issue.
Most fans are quick to point out that Prust must have embellished the play because he returned to play in the third period. It’s dangerous to make that connection when taking into account the similar reaction to Joe Thornton‘s hit on David Perron back in November. Thornton was ejected and Perron was back on the ice for the ensuing five-minute power play. Fans assumed Perron sold the hit to the referees by laying on the ice, only to realize Perron has not played a single game since that game as a result of concussion complications.
There’s also a precedent set on sucker-punches from earlier this season when Ben Eager was suspended four games for this cheap shot on Colby Armstrong:
Staal certainly doesn’t have the track record of Eager, and it’s tough to say the two punches were on the same level of seriousness, but we’ve seen stranger things from the NHL disciplinarians. What’s your call? Will Jordan Staal get suspended?